ARCHIVED - Plug-ins: where hybrids hit the road

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April 08, 2008— Ottawa, Ontario

Could electricity become a feasible, affordable fuel for vehicles? To find out, NRC is guiding a $7 million federal R&D program on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), such as the concept car shown here, to further develop and reduce the cost of this technology. The interdepartmental program's focus is on energy storage, electrical drive components, power train optimization, and regulations for emissions and fuel efficiency.

Plug-in car

Hybrid electric vehicles combine an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. Plug-in hybrids have larger batteries than hybrid electric vehicles and can be recharged by the vehicle engine, by regenerative braking, or by plugging them into an electrical outlet.

NRC researchers are working primarily on energy storage issues. "Lithium ion batteries are the strongest contender for a PHEV propulsion system," says Dr. Isobel Davidson, program manager of the PHEV initiative and a researcher at the NRC Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology. "We're trying to make the batteries cheaper, safer and more compact."

Improving battery safety is the top concern. "Lithium ion batteries were originally designed for portable electronics and power tools — not for large moving objects that can crash into each other," Dr. Davidson explains. "Standard lithium batteries can catch fire if ruptured. Our idea is to develop components that make the battery more oxygen-tolerant so it won't burn if accidentally exposed to air."

This five-year NRC-led initiative is funded by Natural Resources Canada's Program on Energy R&D. Launched in 2007, the PHEV R&D program also involves Environment Canada, National Defence, Transport Canada, and various university and industry partners.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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